October 29 2008 - Mother Frances Neonatologist Co-Authors Study in NE Journal of Medicine

For Immediate Release

October 29, 2008

For More Information:
John Moore
Media Relations
(903) 531-4542


Research Shows Aggressive Phototherapy Can Help Some Premature Babies

TYLER, TX - Brenda Morris, MD, medical director, Trinity Mother Frances Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), is the principal investigator and co-author of "Aggressive Versus Conservative Phototherapy for Infants with Extremely Low Birth Weight," a study published October 30 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Morris led the study while serving as the Director of the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston and Associate Professor of Pediatrics University of Texas-Houston Medical School.

The study determined that the use of aggressive phototherapy could reduce the likelihood in some premature babies of neurological problems including cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness or developmental delays.

The Neonatal Research Network of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development funded the multi-center clinical trial. The study involved 1,974 infants born at 501 to 1,000 grams (1.1 pounds to 2.2 pounds) birth weight between September 2002 and April 2005 in hospitals of the Neonatal Research Network. The infants were followed from birth until they were almost 2 years old.

Phototherapy, or exposure of the newborn to light from the blue end of the spectrum, helps reduce bilirubin. Bilirubin is formed when red blood cells are broken down. High levels of bilirubin can cross from the blood into the brain and cause permanent neurological damage. Phototherapy has been well studied in term infants, but had not previously been studied in these very small infants.

"The study compared the use of two different approaches to the management of bilirubin treatment in these tiny infants, aggressive vs. conservative. Aggressive phototherapy reduced the infants' chances of having neurodevelopmental impairments," said Dr. Morris. "There was a 14 percent reduction in neurodevelopment impairment with aggressive phototherapy. This relative risk reduction was statistically significant, and we did not see any evidence of harm in the study's larger infants, those weighing 751 to 1,000 grams at birth. In addition, we found an even greater reduction in severe impairment."

In babies weighing 501-750 grams (1.1 to 1.65 pounds), the trial showed that in addition to a possible reduction in neurological impairment, there was a trend to a higher mortality rate. The rate was not statistically significant.

Phototherapy was deemed aggressive when started in the 12-36 hours of life and used until the bilirubin remained at very low levels. In contrast, conservative phototherapy was initiated when the serum bilirubin reached certain levels in the baby's blood.

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About Dr. Morris


Dr. Brenda Morris, a graduate of Robert E. Lee High School in Tyler, returned to east Texas to head the new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, scheduled to open at Mother Frances Hospital on November 17, 2008.

Dr. Morris received her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch, and completed her residency there in pediatrics. She completed a neonatology fellowship at Case Western Reserve University/Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital.

She is certified in neonatology by the American Board of Pediatrics. Dr. Morris is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section of Perinatal-Neonatal Pediatrics, the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, Christian Medical Association, and the Texas Pediatric Society.

Dr. Morris and her husband have six children.

Trinity Mother Frances NICU

For more information on how to contribute to the "New Lives NICU Campaign," please contact the Trinity Mother Frances Foundation at (903) 531-4752 or visit the website at www.tmfhs.org/NICUcampaign .

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